Obama: Syria offer 'potentially positive'
on 09/09/2013 23:36:19
The US president told NBC News in an interview that he remained sceptical that Syria would follow through and turn over its stockpile, so he was taking a statement from Damascus "with a grain of salt initially".
But he said he would prefer to have a diplomatic solution to the crisis rather than launch a military attack and called it "a potentially positive development".
US secretary of state John Kerry suggested earlier that Syria could avoid a potential US air attack by putting its chemical weapons under international control.
Syria's ally Russia quickly took the idea to Syria's foreign minister, who said Damascus welcomed the proposal.
Mr Obama said he spoke with Russian president Vladimir Putin about a potential plan for Syria to turn over its chemical weapons to international control.
The public proposal from Russia followed what seemed to be an offhand remark by Mr Kerry. Mr Obama told PBS' NewsHour that he and Mr Putin did speak about it last week while Mr Obama was in St Petersburg, Russia, for the G20 economic summit. The two leaders had an impromptu chat on Friday for about 20 minutes.
Mr Obama said it was a continuation of previous conversations he had with Mr Putin about securing Syria's chemical weapons.
Meanwhile the Senate is delaying a test vote on authorising US military strikes against Syria.
Senate majority leader Harry Reid says it would not be beneficial to hold the vote while international discussions continued on Syria's use of chemical weapons.
Mr Reid says it was not important to "see how fast we can do this". He added: "We have to see how well we can do this."
Mr Reid's action comes amid increased opposition in the Senate to a US military intervention in Syria.
The Nevada Democrat had planned a full Senate vote on Wednesday. It is unclear when that might happen now.